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Machinists Turn Down Boeing Offer

Boeing Co. production workers voted Monday to continue a 47-day strike at the world’s largest commercial jet manufacturer, Machinists union leaders said.

The tally, announced at the Machinists District Lodge 751 headquarters, was 60.9 percent to reject a three-year contract, negotiated last weekend with the help of a federal mediator.

Spokane Machinists narrowly rejected the contract with 133 voting to accept, 134 to reject.

Craig McClure, business representative for Local 86, said the vote shows that members are willing to sacrifice more time on the picket line to win a better contract.

“After being out there 46 days, they had expected a better offer than what they got,” he said.

“Membership is simply saying, ‘Hey! We deserve more.”’

The Spokane vote, which was taken at Playfair Race Course, reflected 93 percent of the eligible voters, McClure said. There are 293 members of the Machinist Local 86 who work at Boeing’s Airway Heights fabrication plant.

A Boeing spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Union negotiators had recommended acceptance, saying the pact would boost pensions, offer some protection against potential job losses through subcontracting, avoid any increase in health care costs for retirees and scale down health care cost increases, compared with an offer rejected by more than 3-to-1 in the strike vote Oct. 5.

The sticking point, however, was a requirement that workers begin paying part of their health care insurance premiums to remain in the most popular health plan.

In addition, many strikers were angered by word Tuesday that corporate executives had become eligible for $2.5 million in bonuses because of rising stock prices.

Ink was barely dry on union summaries of the agreement Sunday before strikers began setting them on fire or throwing them in trash cans.

During the voting Tuesday, angry union members chanted “vote no,” although many others cast their ballots quietly and many indicated they were voting yes.

District 751 in the Puget Sound area represents about 23,500 riveters, crane operators and other blue-collar workers. Other affected units of the Machinists union represent about 7,200 Boeing employees in Wichita, Kan., and about 1,200 in Gresham, Ore., plus those in Spokane.

In the latest offer, the basic pay formula was unchanged from the contract rejected in October. It would have boosted hourly wages to an average of $22.16 in the final year from $20.27 at present, but a cost-of-living allowance of 30 cents an hour would have been prepaid, increasing workers’ pay by about $450 over the next nine months.

The package also included lumpsum payments of 5 percent of gross pay Dec. 1, 3 percent a year later and a 3 percent general wage increase in the third year.

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